Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Accountability February

Hi friends!

I've missed you!

February has been kicking my ass- between crazy work hours, appearing in a local production of The Vagina Monologues, and entering the fourth week of a viral upper respiratory infection- I am barely able to keep track of my own schedule, let alone get some blogging done!

But, I do have lots to fill you in on. Here's a little recap on what's been happening in my world over the last few weeks, in newspaper headline style, just because:


Matthew and I cannot catch a break! We've been sick with viral upper respiratory infections since the beginning of February. Each time we think we're getting better, wham! More congestion, runny noses, coughing, headaches, and general crappiness. Hopefully we are in the home stretch and won't be sick all of next month too.

We should just bathe in lysol at this point.


Well, maybe not lost it totally, but I'm definitely on the struggle bus. Since we've been home from the cruise/WDW Marathon Weekend, I've run exactly three times- once in the snow we finally got a few weeks ago. But overall, it's been a slow return to running. Partly because I've been sick for weeks, and partly because I seem to always struggle after a marathon. All I feel like doing is eating and sleeping. Maybe I'm actually a bear and I'm supposed to be hibernating this winter? Either way, I've got to put together a training plan soon because we've signed up for lots of races in the next few months.

More of this please, future Sarah. 


That's right, Matthew and I took advantage of some discounts and signed up for several races as part of the Harrisburg Area YMCA Race Series:

Vinewinder 4 miler, 5/13/17- this one goes through the Vineyard and Brewery at Hershey! 😁
Harrisburg Mile, 7/19/17
Harrisburg Half Marathon, 9/10/17

We also signed up for our fourth (!) Steel Challenge, 5/6/17 - 5/7/17 (Pittsburgh 5k on Saturday, Pittsburgh Half Marathon on Sunday) and WDW Marathon Weekend in January of 2018; Dopey Challenge for Matthew, Half Marathon for me. We're also looking at a few local-ish half marathons and 10-milers in March and April.

See you soon, Pittsburgh!

I've still got recaps to write from our latest Disney cruise and the last part of the Castaway Cay Challenge which I'll try to finish up sometime this week/weekend. I hope to bring "Accountability Monday" back on a regular basis too. Fingers crossed March is a better month than February.

Have a great week, friends! 😉

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Race Recap & Review: Walt Disney World Marathon

After cheering all day at the "Pop Art" Half Marathon, Matthew and I met up with his cousin and her husband for dinner and a Wal-Mart run. The weather for the marathon was predicted to be in the 30-40 degree range with a severe wind warning. So glad we went all the way to Florida just to run in winter weather! <insert eye roll here> We grabbed some extra layers from the clearance section in the largest Wal-Mart I've ever seen (seriously!) and then prepared for the race the next day.

As you might know from this post, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to run the race. In fact, I'd been debating that entire week if I should try to run or just cheer for Matthew or try to jump in at mile 20 and run the last six miles with him. After lots of conversation with Matthew, and some soul searching, I decided that I was going to start the race and run as far as I could. With that race plan in place, we set our alarms for 3:00 AM (ugh) and settled in for a fitful night of anxious sleep.

Layers on layers on layers. Also, not sure Matthew is awake yet.

Just like my first marathon recap, we're gonna run through this one with the help of some Disney songs. 😄

To set the mood for a "Frozen" marathon morning... 

🎶 Do you want to build a snowman?
Come on let's go and play!
I never see you anymore, come out the door, 
it's like you've gone away... 🎶

It. Was. Freezing. I am so glad we grabbed extra throwaway clothes to wear at the start. We packed up our post-race bag (complete with external phone charger, pants, sweatshirts, other warm clothes, etc.), got dressed, and caught an early bus to the race start at Epcot. We met up with our running Ohana in our usual place and all huddled to keep warm. Shout out to Amy's friend for helping us tie our heat sheets around us so they'd stay on! We also met up with our friends Matt (from Hokeyblog) and his wonderful photographer wife Kim and grabbed a few pictures.

The crew, minus Lauren, Sara, and Kelsey who were warm and cozy in Race Retreat. Totally not jealous. 

Matt and his magical wrap thing. Again, not jealous at all.

As we walked back the half mile walk to the corral, I pulled out my YakTrax hand warmers and put them in my gloves, in the palms of my hands. Let me tell you, they were so warm! I ended up keeping them until around mile eight. I grabbed them while I was packing on a whim, not really thinking I'd need them in Florida where the weather was supposed to be in the 50-60 degree range. But I digress...

Matthew and I were in corral I which was the 5:30- 6:00 hour pace corral. The last time we did the marathon together, we were back in L so it was pretty cool to be so much closer this year. We found a place to sit down but weren't sitting long- they had us moving right after the race started. Somehow in the crowd of people I managed to find Jess, a fellow ENELL ambassador who lives near my hometown- we see each other at a lot of Baltimore-area races.

We were truly frozen.

There's a few ENELLs hiding under there, promise!

The view from I corral as we approached the start line.

About 30 minutes after the race start, it was our turn to start the race. We started off with our 30:30 interval, 30 seconds running, 30 seconds walking. We had planned to keep our pace hovering around 14:30- 15:30 minutes per mile, just slowly and steadily working our way to the finish. As I was coming off not running for a month and Matthew had just run almost 23 miles in the last three days, we knew slow and steady was the best possible option for finishing.

The first few miles of the race were pretty eventful as we made our way towards Magic Kingdom. I felt great- a little rusty, but pretty good. We passed under the Magic Kingdom entrance sign (which is misleading because we had at least another mile before we made that right turn onto Main Street USA), through the Ticket and Transportation Center, and then under the bridge with the awesome DJ.

"Caution runners, speed bumps ahead."

Many runDisney enthusiasts will tell you that running through Cinderella's Castle is magical. And it is, to a point. However, I think the most magical part of this race is turning onto Main Street USA and seeing hundreds of cheering people, hearing "When You Wish Upon a Star" playing as you run down the middle of the road, and seeing the castle lit up in thousands of lights. It is so absolutely magical that I cry each and every time I make that right-hand turn.

🎶 When you wish upon a star,
makes no difference who you are,
anything your heart desires
will come to you.
If your heart is in your dreams,
no request is too extreme.
When you wish upon a star like dreamers do. 🎶

There she is. 💗

Kim (Matt's wife) saw us and managed to grab a few pictures of us in awe of the castle. We made another right into Tomorrowland, stopped to use a real bathroom in Fantasyland, ran through the castle, grabbed a quick picture with a colonial man (and Sam the Eagle!) in Liberty Square and then headed out behind the park towards the Grand Floridian.

Still wearing the clothes we planned to throw away at the start. Shout out to Kim for getting these gems.

Can you spot Sam?!

From MK, we traveled in the direction of Animal Kingdom with a quick trip through the Water Treatment Plant. Kudos to Disney for making this rather boring part of the race semi-fun by including all kinds of trivia along the race course. I finally took off my fleece men's pajama pants at mile 10 when the temps had warmed up to the mid-40's.

🎶 "The more you know" 🎶

We entered Animal Kingdom through a back entrance and headed towards the front of the park through Asia and DinoLand USA. We briefly considered stopping to ride Everest (a long-time goal of mine) but the line was 25 minutes long. We were averaging around 14:30/15 minute miles so we didn't have the time to waste. One day, Everest, one day.

This part of the race had the best on-course music for sure; Matthew and I rocked out to "Son of Man" from Tarzan:

🎶 On this journey that you're making,
there'll be answers that you'll seek.
And it's you who'll climb the mountain,
It's you who'll reach the peak.
Son of Man, look to the sky,
lift your spirit, set it free.
Some day you'll walk tall with pride,
Son of Man, a man in time you'll be 🎶 

Hello AK performers!

After we'd exited Animal Kingdom- and randomly ran into my friend/fellow ENELL ambassador Julie who was cheering!-  we officially hit the halfway mark of the race. Surprisingly, we still felt pretty great. My right foot had been aching since the walk to the corral but by this point, my left foot had caught up so both were hurting equally. Ha!

Somewhere around mile 15, I stopped feeling great. My lack of training in December was catching up to me- everything started to hurt. My quads, my calves, my hamstrings- hell, even my arms and back were aching! I really started to question if I was going to make it to the end of the race. I started thinking about how long we still had to go, over 11 miles, and got into an incredibly negative head space. All the doubts I had about myself, all the "I can't do this" thoughts started getting louder and louder in my head. But I remembered what a wise dude (Matthew, aka, the best running partner/husband) once told me, "Run the mile you're in. Focus on how far you've gone, not how far you have to go."

So, I set my sights on the finish line, focused on each step and breath, and reminded myself that I'd already run 15 miles with a cranky foot; there was no stopping me now. Who knew "How Far I'd Go" if I could just keep moving forward?

🎶 See the light where the sky meets the sea,
it calls me,
no one knows how far it goes.
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me,
one day I'll know,
if I go there's just no telling how far I'll go. 

The hardest part of this race is miles 15- 21. We ran from AK to ESPN's Wide World of Sports and every step felt like a death march. Part of the reason it sucks is that almost all of miles 16 and 17 are spent running towards WWOS as thousands of runners are running out of WWOS, about four miles in front of you. It just messes with your brain!

On a positive note, we got a cute picture with Donald, Chip, and Dale dressed as referees and we ran into several of our friends! It never ceases to amaze me that out of 25,000+ runners, we somehow end up seeing our friends out on the course. We saw Dave around mile 19 and walked a few minutes with him. This dude is Perfectly Goofy and Perfectly Dopey meaning he's done every single Goofy and Dopey challenge since their inception. Bad. Ass.

Perfectly Bad Ass Dave.

Can these guys referee the next Ravens/Steelers football game?

As we were running around Champion Stadium, they were announcing some of the runners names as they crossed the timing mat. Matthew heard them say our friend Kelsey's name (she was running with Lauren and first-time marathoner Sara) but we couldn't figure out if they were in front of us or behind us. So we kept running and we kept our eyes peeled for our friends.

Hi, race photographer!

Sure enough, right after we left the stadium, we ran into Lauren, Kelsey, and Sara! We hugged, we squealed, we shared our candy (Matthew and I brought Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids with us), and took a selfie. I can't explain how uplifting it was to see familiar faces during these difficult miles. To see people who say "You've Got a Friend in Me" at just the right time? Pure magic!

 🎶 You've got a friend in me,
you've got a friend in me.
When the road looks rough ahead
and you're miles and miles
from your nice warm bed.
You just remember what your old pal said,
Boy, you've got a friend in me.
Yeah, you've got a friend in me. 

Smiles at mile 20? With friends like these, no doubt. 

Off they go!

We finally made it through WWOS and hit mile 21 on the way to Hollywood Studios. Some awesome spectator was handing out freaking donut holes on the course and they were the best damn donut holes I've ever tasted.

Hollywood Studios is another one of my favorite parts of this race for two reasons: 1. You're almost done! 2. They hand out chocolate at mile 23. This year, they were handing out full-size M&M's and fun-size snickers. So delicious when you're only three miles from the finish. I'm pretty sure I'd have eaten anything at this point. 😂

Selfies with Tower of Terror or it didn't happen, right?

This enthusiasm is only like 50% fake. 

After we left DHS, we started the short (but feels like forever long) trip around the boardwalk and into Epcot. Every part of my body hurt and I was just praying for the end so I could sit the hell down. Our feet hit the planks of the boardwalk and I started bawling- once you get to the planks, there's no way you'll get swept. We'd almost made it- just a few more miles and we'd be marathoner finishers again! This part of the race reminded me that "I Am Moana [a Marathoner]:"

🎶 Sometimes the world seems against you,
the journey may leave a scar.
But scars can heal and reveal just
where you are.

The people you love will change you.
The things you have learned will guide you.
And nothing on Earth can silence
the quiet voice still inside you.
And when that voice starts to whisper,
Moana, you've come so far.
Moana, listen,
do you know who you are? 

We entered Epcot near the UK pavilion and turned left to do one lap around World Showcase. The park was already open but there was one lane carved out for runners with cones. Because it was so late in the race, not many runners were stopping for pictures with the Princesses they had out in their respective countries. We met Belle in France and then got a quick picture with Snow White in Germany. There we made the best decision we'd made all day- we got in line for a Shofferhoffer beer at the kiosk outside the Germany pavilion. A few people in line noticed we were still running so they let us cut in line and get a beer to go. It was one of the best beers I've ever had. Another benefit to running through Disney- booze on the course. 

We're still not sure where Matthew is looking. 

...and we're still not sure where Snow White is looking either.

Don't ask why we're prom posing with the beer.
After 25 miles, nothing makes sense. 
Just taking a walk break and sipping on a beer in Epcot. NBD.

We finished our beer, lapped the rest of the countries, and ran towards the big golf ball and the finish. By our estimates, we knew this would not be a PR race for either of us. My current marathon PR is 5:55:09 and back when training for this race started, I'd envisioned a 5:45 or lower finish time. But it just wasn't meant to be. 

We ran past the golf ball, delighted in the mile 26 gospel choir, linked hands and ran on to finish the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon in 6:48:01. 

This enthusiasm isn't faked; the finish line is moments away!
Oh, the finish is right there? Well, there's always time for pics with the main mice!

We. Are. Finished!
A little creative editing and we have a complete finisher picture 😆

The marathon is an absolutely incredible experience. And to do it with your husband and friends through the happiest place on Earth ? Magical.

After the race, we finally sat down (!!!!), met up with friends, ate all the goodies from our runDisney finisher boxes, and enjoyed our medals. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon after running 26.2 miles through all four parks.

2017 bling.


Dopey finishers.

The most comfortable I'd been all day!

As you can see from our clothing, it was still pretty chilly by Florida standards. I think it warmed up to the low-50's by late afternoon. After resting for a while, we said goodbye to our friends and then headed back to the resort to shower and meet up with Matthew's cousin and her husband at Disney Springs for a celebratory dinner (and Guinness!) at Raglan Road.

Disney Springs was all about runDisney.

Marathon number three wasn't the race I'd planned; it ended up being so much more. A reminder of who I am, how far I've come, and how the people I've surrounded myself with lift me up at the exact moment I need it. It might sound cliche, but I truly feel blessed. And I am so crazy grateful for all the experiences- and people- life has brought me thus far.

Will we be back at WDW Marathon Weekend for 2018? Of course. There's simply too much magic that we don't want to miss. 😉

See ya real soon!

4 parks, 1 day, no ticket. WDW Marathon, you are awesome.

Friday, February 3, 2017

A look back: 2017 WDW Marathon Training

It's hard to believe the Walt Disney World Marathon was almost a month ago! It's even harder to believe that the official training plan kicked off seven months ago!

I document most of my training here on the blog and on social media. It helps keep me accountable and I like being able to reflect on previous training cycles.


...there's one part of this training cycle that you didn't hear about: I spent December 6th through January 3rd with my right foot in a boot. The only folks that knew were people that saw me in real life during that time; I did not post on social media; mainly because I wanted to wait until I knew what was going on with my foot before telling the internet about it. And because I needed time to process what it might be like if I couldn't run the marathon, the race I'd been training six months for.

Right after the Race 13.1 10k, the outside part of my right foot, right along the metatarsal, started to ache. Dull at first but then to a screaming pain that radiated under my arch and along the outside of my foot. It throbbed constantly, even when I tried to sleep. A few days after the race, I saw the tell-tale signs of bruising on the outside of my foot- classic 5th metatarsal stress fracture symptoms.  I was able to see my ortho on December 6th and she immediately put me in the boot. X-rays did not show any abnormality; she told me I needed to wait at least two weeks before I could get an MRI to diagnose a stress fracture. She suggested it might be tendinitis and that the boot would help calm it down. 

For two full weeks, I was in the boot, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, only removing it to shower. I managed to get in some bike workouts and do some simple strength exercises, but my foot still hurt. A lot. I had to face reality; I may miss the WDW Marathon for a second time. The 2017 WDW Marathon was supposed to be my redemption from missing it in 2015- it was supposed to be my fastest marathon yet. I'd been training so hard, had fought through so many other stupid injuries this cycle- there was no possible way I had broken my foot again. But that's what it looked like, And that's what it felt like. Even in the boot, my foot was killing me.

Luckily, the boot looks great with skinny jeans and pug leggings. I biked a whole lotta miles while M would do his long runs.

After the initial two weeks, an MRI was ordered, my insurance company rejected it, I had to make about a thousand angry calls to get them to reconsider, and then it was another two full weeks before I was finally able to get the MRI- which I finally did on the Friday before we left for Disney (December 30th).

I walked into my ortho's office on Tuesday, January 3rd for the MRI results expecting the worst. I had already cried, bargained with God, yelled, and finally, reluctantly accepted that my foot could be broken again. And because I'd just spent the last four weeks in a boot, I had no clue if I'd even be able to handle the marathon if it turned out my foot wasn't broken.

My sweet, amazing, incredibly caring ortho walked into the office, looked at me, and said, "I was sure you had a stress fracture, but you don't!" She explained that two surgeons and the radiologist had all looked at the films and there was nothing there. Her exact words: "You are clear to run the marathon this weekend as tolerated. It will hurt like hell [because I hadn't been training], but you can go for it." To say I was elated was an understatement. 😊

Blurry, bathroom, no-boot selfies!

Even though my foot still hurt, I took the boot off that day and packed for Disney with a new hope- maybe I'd be able to run my race after all. I still had no idea if I'd be able to run the full distance of the marathon but knew I could at least try without damaging my foot- even if it hurt like hell.

Spoiler alert- I did run and finish the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon. It wasn't the race I'd planned nor was it the race I'd hoped for. I had dreamt that this marathon would be a PR, even so much to think that I could finish it in under five hours and 45 minutes, beating my current PR by 10 minutes. But that didn't happen and I think I'm ok with it.

I came across a Joseph Campbell quote in early December that played on repeat in my brain when I was feeling especially sorry for myself:

What I had planned didn't work out, but what was waiting for me during the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend was pretty damn awesome. Sometimes you have to let go of what "should be" and just enjoy what "is." ❤

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Race Recap & Review: Spectating the Inaugural Pop Art Half Marathon

Disney magic. I say that phrase all the time, usually about some new ride or experience or character interaction that Disney comes up with that fills me with a sense of joy and wonder similar to my fondest childhood memories.

But the "real" Disney magic, the stuff that makes me actually believe there is good in the world, lies within people. 

Let's rewind a few weeks...

After the Walt Disney World 10k and the Cigna Blogger Event on Friday, January 6th, Matthew and I hit up the expo to pick up my packet for the marathon and browse all the fun vendors. Then we headed back to our hotel, Pop Century, to get packed up and ready to go for the half marathon the next day. I had pre-packaged a ton of Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids, and Gummi Bears and planned to hand them out around mile seven of the half marathon. 

As Matthew was laying out his race gear and I was packing the backpack full of spectator goodies, we saw a notification on facebook; the 20th anniversary Walt Disney World Half Marathon and the Kid's Races were being cancelled due to lightening. Shock, disappointment, and eventual confusion set in- what would happen for Dopey/Goofy runners? Would there be any type of refund or deferral option? Would the weather actually be crappy on Saturday morning?

Turns out, runDisney did a fabulous job communicating all the important information that runners needed: Half/Goofy/Dopey runners would have deferral and/or refund options, Goofy/Dopey runners would get their medals after the full, and Half Marathoners/Kid's Racers would be able to pick up medals at the expo on Saturday. 

So while it was incredibly disappointing, the communication from runDisney was superb and we were grateful for them keeping 30,000+ runners and spectators in the loop. Once we knew the race was off, and we could sleep in a little, we walked over to Art of Animation and played "Exploding Kittens" with our friends Nathan, Jim, and Jim's mom for a while. Matthew already knew he wanted to run his own half the next day depending on the weather, so we didn't stay out too late. 

The next morning, Matthew woke up around six and checked the weather- it was pouring down rain and lightening like crazy. Looked like runDisney made the right call. At 7:30, it was just raining a little bit, so Matthew and I got up and headed our separate ways- he was going to run around the path between Pop Century and Art of Animation (about a mile and a half loop) and I was headed to grab coffee and then go down to the bridge that connected the two resorts to cheer and give out my candy.

Glad I invested in these ponchos!

I had my clapper, cow bell, race sign, pre-packaged candy, and a bag of pretzels. I could hear people cheering from the lobby/cafeteria area, so I hustled out to the bridge to see how many people were out running. Nathan had texted and he was going to meet me.

I don't think Matthew and I were prepared for what we saw: so many people were out running and cheering- it was awesome!

Quickly, I set up my sign and candy and started cheering for runners, basically yelling, "snacks, get your candy and snacks here!"  Nathan joined me and brought some bottles of water, powerade, and the cups from his room. Somehow, a little aid station just popped up 😊

The beginning.

It's growing...

Then, a man came up to me and gave me some bananas. Then someone brought over extra gels. Then a dude gave me a bottle of water and said, "I'll donate to the cause." Then two other spectators brought over a bench and we had a serious aid station.

Now it's looking legitimate.

Jim and Charlotte (Jim's mom) joined us and started filling cups of water and powerade and passing them out to runners. Nathan worked on getting us paper cups donated from the cafeteria and I was standing on the corner yelling to runners, "Water, powerade, snacks, on your right!"

Panoramic view of the official aid station of the unofficial Pop Art Half Marathon.

We became quite the team and were having a total blast! We were working efficiently and quickly, making sure runners were fed and their thirst was quenched. Because most folks were running loops, we were able to cheer for multiple people more than once- we even created fun nicknames for some of the runners: "epic beard man," "tall guys," "green shoes," "sparkle ladies," etc. Seriously, it was so much fun. I got to see several friends (including Linzie from Sharp Endurance) and got to see Matthew quite a few times.

Go, Sharpie, go!

Jim's wife, Kellee, and their two-year-old son, Trent, came out to help us and Trent brought his Stitch costume. Suddenly, we had a character stop! At one point, there were probably 10 runners in line to get a picture with "baby Stitch." A young man who had been cheering near us came up to me and handed me a "I'm Celebrating!"  Disney pin with "candy from a stranger" written on it. I choked back tears and hugged him. It was such a cool moment. He explained that his mom had uploaded some videos of us to the Team runDisney facebook group and they'd gotten thousands of likes. Humbling to say the least.

Baby Stitch is my new hero.

Nathan went back and forth to the dining halls at both resorts several times to get more cups donated and to buy more powerade and water- he must have spent hundreds of dollars to keep our runners from getting too thirsty! Folks kept donating food to us- lifesavers, apples, applesauce, chips, even left-overs from runDisney runner boxes! A guy in a Team runDisney shirt approached me with a case of water and said he saw us on facebook and drove over to give us more water. He ended up being Matt Marcella, the founder of Team runDisney (!!!). So, we chatted, got a selfie (obviously), and then he hung out cheering for the runners and getting some live video of the unofficial half marathon.

I meet the coolest people on the internet.

Matthew finished his half (because he's a damn rock star!) and then came out to help us at the aid station. I made him a medal by fashioning a luggage tag (it was in the shape of the actual medal) to a piece of string from a runDisney gear check bag. Jim grabbed his portable speaker and then we had music to keep our energy levels up. It was glorious; especially because it starting raining and getting super windy.

A photo posted by Sarah (@sparklyrunner) on

All of our donated snacks!

People helping people- beautiful.

Jammin in the rain.

Finally, after we'd used up all of our donated cups and gone through all the water and powerade, we called it quits around 1:30 pm. Most of the runners had finished and we were all pretty exhausted. We decided to leave the remaining food out on a bench in case anyone needed it and then went our separate ways to get ready for the full marathon the next day. I grabbed a beer and a cheeseburger from the dining hall to take back to the room and then ate like I ran a half marathon 😂


I don't think I'll be able accurately describe the magic of that day and that event. It filled my heart with so much love to see all the runners, determined to get their miles in; the spectators, cheering their hearts out in the rain; and all the people who donated and helped staff our aid station. Pure Disney magic.

With all that's going on in the world, this day reminded me that people are inherently good and by taking care of each other, just look at what we can accomplish- together. 💗

So even though this was the "half that wasn't," it will go down in history as my favorite race of all time. All because Disney magic exists- in the hearts of each of us.